· 1 min read · Features

Later life workers at Nationwide

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UK building society Nationwide provides an insightful example of why companies should consider taking on later life apprentices.

The business’s recent development of its apprenticeship scheme to target the mature labour market is still in its infancy. But, as the first major UK organisation to change its employment rules to enable employees to work until 75 in 2005 (and remove retirement ages completely in 2011), its dedication to capitalising more fully on this section of the workforce is clear to see.

“One of the reasons behind these major changes to our policies is we feel it’s vital that our workforce reflects our diverse membership,” explains HR director Ann Brown. “It makes business sense that we reflect our customers by employing a cross-section of people from our communities, irrespective of age. The only two things we need to consider are whether the person can do their job and whether they’re focused on doing the right thing.”

It’s an example that mirrors Barclays’ experiences. And while most of Nationwide’s later life workers are in customer-facing roles, where they are able to provide more history of the local branch and reflect a consistent, trustworthy source with established roots in the community, the organisation’s older employees also fulfil roles across the whole business, including legal and compliance, treasury, strategy and planning, HR and customer experience.

To cater for the typical later life worker’s job expectations and ensure job satisfaction, Nationwide is currently developing a carer’s agenda. This addresses some of the caring responsibilities older workers often have. Nationwide will be offering those with such responsibilities an opportunity to ‘buy’ up to four weeks’ holiday from next year. Most importantly, there is no phase-out or exit strategy in place until the employee decides they would like to retire.

“There are no procedures to follow or ‘gatekeeping’ criteria, with employment continuing on the same terms and conditions as before,” states Brown. “So benefits such as private health insurance and critical illness cover, which some companies believe would be too costly to provide to older workers, remain in place. Employing older people is a mutually beneficial arrangement where we can continue to gain from the experience and skills that our older workforce brings, while they themselves are able to carry on doing a valued job, with more choice over when they want to retire.”